Date of Award

Fall 2008

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

de Saint Aubin, Ed.

Second Advisor

Siderits, Maryanne

Third Advisor

Sheikh, Anees


This study examined the process of meaning in the wake of a woman's diagnosis of breast cancer and in the context of an online psychosocial intervention developed to help a woman cope with the illness. Meaning processes have been identified as a critical element of weathering the difficult and often traumatic illness of breast cancer. A review of the literature identified four constructs necessary to facilitate an integrative process of meaning. These constructs are explicitly found in the Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS), an online psychosocial intervention developed for use by women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer. Narrative data from CHESS research provided an opportunity to examine the meaning process in the context of an intervention designed to help women cope with the illness. This study analyzed both qualitative and quantitative survey data collected from women with breast cancer who participated in a randomized control trial testing the CHESS intervention against an "Internet only" control. Participants described how they'd been changed by their illness experience 4 months after inclusion in the study (and 4 to 6 months post-diagnosis). Quantitative analyses were used to detect group differences in meaning outcomes and their relationship to demographic information, health outcomes, and quality of life. Qualitative analyses of open-ended responses were conducted using inductive methodology based on grounded theory. A more comprehensive understanding of the meaning process during illness and its correlation with quality of life and breast cancer outcomes further refines our understanding of the interconnection of meaning processes and health during illness; and provides direction for development of interventions specifically designed to facilitate meaning, thus mitigating traumatic stress for millions of women with the illness...



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